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Before a commercial, television shows have traditionally done a Fade to Black. Recently, though, television dramas skip the fading and cut the picture to a completely black screen. We've Seen It a Million Times. Typically, a Smash to Black will immediately follow a shocking moment such as a Cliff Hanger, a Commercial Break Cliffhanger, or a Cold Opening, but can also follow a One-Liner or a moment of Deadpan Snark. Expect this to be called "Older Than The DVD" thirty years down the road.
Named for the Smash Cut, of which this is a subtrope.
- The ending to Inception.
- The movie Avatar ends the same way.
- Paul Thomas Anderson is fond of ending movies this way--Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood.
- The Rundown ends similarly.
- Lost does this with just about every major or minor plot twist. In other words, a lot.
- Joss Whedon apparently loves this trope: Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse all use Smash to Black instead of Fade to Black. According to Whedon himself, this got him in trouble with Fox, which automatically goes to commercial if there's complete black on the screen for more than one second. Since his Smashes resulted in the system automatically going to commercial, a number of operators and affiliates had to immediately override an emergency commercial that showed up with the proper commercial. Whedon, apparently, remained unapologetic. This is why he is awesome.
- Joss mentions in the commentary for Firefly that in order to avoid the automatic cuing of the commercial, they changed the color of the blackout, so Smash to Black became Smash to Almost Black But Really Just Very Dark Brown.
- Malcolm in the Middle did this in nearly every episode, complete with a door-slamming sound effect.
- Infamously, The Sopranos ended the series this way, with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" cutting off mid-word.
- Everybody Hates Chris ended its series this way as well, mainly as a Shout-Out to The Sopranos.
- Skins smashes to black so often that the one time they did the fade out (Katie's S4 episode) it stood out (and some people suspected the fade out to be a lengthening device to cover up time lost from cut scenes).
- Monty Python had one episode in which the actors were discussing how to end the show.
- "Well, there's the sudden ending." CUT
- Supernatural does this frequently, as observed on Television Without Pity:
"METAL TEETH CHOMP!"
- The Beatles: Rock Band does this with "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," befitting how the song itself ends.
- Done in The Stanley Parable as well, sometimes out of nowhere, usually to indicate something bad has happened, and always to great effect.
- Mass Effect 3 ends like this, with the Smash to Black coinciding with the final note in the ending music.
- The Simpsons was perhaps the first show to do this consistently. Most act breaks avoided fadeouts, in part because they usually end acts on a gag and it is thought a fadeout would detract from its impact.
- To combat the automatic commercial problem noted above, most Simpsons episodes have a fadeout artificially added when they air in syndication. This can be problematic since often there is plot or a joke happening up to the very last second of an act, so the fadeout often begins while the action is still occurring.
- SpongeBob SquarePants shorts end in this manner on a regular basis.